In 1986, following a decade of research, Honda opened 60 all-new dealerships in North America to support its Acura automobile division. Acura was the first Japanese luxury brand to be introduced, and its initial offering consisted of two models: the Legend, a V6-powered sedan, and the Integra, available as a five-door and three-door hatchback. The success of these models led to competing Japanese luxury brand ventures (Toyota's Lexus and Nissan's Infiniti).
Since 2006, actor James Spader has provided the voice-over for Acura commercials.
In 1990, four years after the debut of the Legend and Integra, Acura introduced the NSX, a midship V6 powered, rear-wheel-drive sports car. The NSX, an acronym for "New Sports eXperimental", was billed as the first Japanese car capable of competing with Ferrari and Porsche. This vehicle served as a halo car for the Acura brand. The NSX was the world's first all-aluminum production car, and was also marketed and viewed by some as the "Everyday Supercar" thanks in part to its ease of use, quality and reliability, traits that were unheard of in the supercar segment at the time.
Despite a strong start for the Acura brand (in terms of market acceptance), sales suffered in the mid-to-late 1990s. Some critics attributed this decline in part to less inspiring designs, which were alleged to be re-branded Japanese-spec Hondas. Additionally, during this time Acura switched to an alphanumeric nomenclature formula, dropping the Legend and Integra titles. The 1996 3.5 RL, which replaced the popular Legend, was seen by many as the epitome of this problem, namely because the RL designation was more anonymous than the former Legend title, which had sort of grown into its own cult following and still does so to this day. Also, the RL's 210horsepower (160kW) V6 (later increased to 225 hp), together with a high price and styling that cautiously copied the larger rear wheel drive and V-8 powered Lexus LS 400, did little against BMW, Audi, Lexus, and other competitors. During this time, the NSX also lost sales as Acura made few changes from its original 1989 trim. A year later, the Integra sedan was withdrawn, replaced by the Acura 1.6EL, which was only sold in Canada as a rebadged Honda Civic. The Integra sedan continued to be sold in the United States until 2001.